Resort Review: Disneyland Paris celebrates 20 years
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Back in April 1992, Disneyland Paris opened its doors for the first time to thousands of guests. Since then, the park has welcomed more than 250 million visitors, expanded with the opening of Walt Disney Studios and has developed an amazing variety of new attractions, shows and parades.
We were delighted to be invited along to help celebrate 20 years of magic with a weekend packed full of fireworks, fountains and fun.
Hop on a Eurostar at London's St Pancras International and you'll be rubbing shoulders with Mickey and friends in less than three hours. To hit the park mid-morning, book yourself on an early train heading straight to Marne-La-Vallee (Disneyland Park). We travelled in Standard Premier, which includes a good breakfast and a sizeable luggage allowance (very handy if you have the kids in tow).
Best rooms in the house
If you choose to stay at one of Disneyland Paris' seven hotels, most are situated just a short distance away from the stations. We stayed at Disney's Hotel New York, a mere 15-minute stroll away from the parks. The hotel boasts an array of facilities including two swimming pools, a gym, restaurants and bars. Rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable – but let's face it, you don't really go to Disney to spend your weekend in a hotel room.
What's to love?
The attention to detail at Disney is second to none. The resort has been carefully planned so that visitors can get the most out of their experience. Early starters can plan their day with the free FastPass service for most of the main rides and attractions. This gives you an allocated time for each ride, cutting queue times to a minimum – essential if you're only there for one day.
The parks are also not as hard to get around as you may imagine. Take a load off your feet by hopping on the Disneyland Railroad at Main Street USA or hitch a lift in one of the vintage cars.
So what's new for 2012?
Disneyland Paris is once again pulling out all the stops with its brand new night-time show, Disney Dreams. Disney's most cherished characters come alive on the façade of Sleeping Beauty's castle to revisit a number of cherished stories. Featuring a vast array of lasers, water fountains, fireworks (and of course some of Disney's best known songs) this incredible show is a fitting way to celebrate this milestone anniversary.
Other new additions include the Disney 20th Anniversary Celebration Train – a new parade featuring the likes of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald. Highly recommended, this is one of the best ways to meet all of the characters and wish them a Happy Birthday!
Things to do...
As clichéd as it sounds, there really is something at Disneyland Paris for all ages. For the younger ones, make sure you visit Fantasyland where you can ride on the Teacups, fly with Dumbo or get lost in Alice's curious Labyrinth (a favourite of ours). Also in Walt Disney Studios, Toy Story Playland is well worth a visit and features some great rides for little (and big) kids.
We were delighted that the park featured plenty of white-knuckle rides, including Space Mountain, Aerosmith's Rockin' Rollercoaster and the hair-raising Tower of Terror.
It's easy to get caught up by endless activities at the two parks – Walt Disney Studios and the Disneyland Park – so map out where you want to go beforehand. The Disneyland Paris website is a great place to start your planning, with interactive maps and tools. You'll also be given maps on your arrival, along with helpful suggested itineraries and even a schedule of photo opportunities, so it's hard to go wrong.
Until September 2012, guests can also revel in extended opening hours. On most days the park will close around 10:30/11pm allowing you to really make the most of your day. Hotel guests can also have access to the park two hours before it opens to the general public, so you can avoid the queues by hitting all of your favourite rides then.
And, as most people leave the park in the early evening, this is often the perfect time to hit up some of the more popular rides.
What if I want to stay in / visit Paris?
If you want to base yourself in central Paris, you can use the RER Train to access the resort. This takes around 45 minutes and is very straightforward.
If you do one thing while you're here...
A surprise highlight was the Finding Nemo themed Crush's Coaster in Walt Disney Studios. Make sure you arrive early for this one as queues get very long!
It's hard to fault Disneyland Paris, but the one thing to bear in mind is the quality and price of the food. It's what you'd expect from a big theme park and can be quite expensive – so pick your restaurants wisely. Our particular favourite was the Moroccan themed Agrabah Café which offered a good balanced buffet for a reasonable €22.
Disneyland Paris is a great way to celebrate your inner child. Magical, fun, enchanting: this is definitely is a place where both young and old can enjoy themselves. The park continues to innovate in order to keep the magic alive and the 20th Anniversary celebrations were a true testament to that.
How to book
For more information about a family break to Disneyland Paris, call direct on 08448 008 111 or visit disneylandparis.com.
Eurostar operates a daily direct service in each direction to Disneyland Resort Paris (daily direct services to the resort do not operate on Tuesdays and Saturdays except during school holidays). Fares are from £69 standard class return (adult) £49 return (child aged 4-11 on day of travel). The fastest journey times to the resort from London are 2 hours 35 minutes, from Ebbsfleet 2 hours 25 minutes and 2 hours from Ashford. Tickets are available from eurostar.com or from Eurostar's contact centre on 08432 186 186.
Disneyland Paris' 20th anniversary
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